How To Use Unique Plants In The Garden

by Amanda

Unique Plants - echinops

Echinops is one of our favorite unique perennials. The fantastic globe-shaped flowers attract a parade of pollinators to the summer garden.

Although we all love the classic look that Daylilies, Hostas, and more bring to the landscape, there’s something exciting about trying new, unique varieties that can’t be found at the garden center. These unique plants create instant focal points and are often a conversation piece for visitors to the garden.

The Benefits Of Unique Plants

Have you heard the saying that people are supposed to fear the unknown? This logic should be thrown right out the window in gardening. It’s fun to embrace new, unique plants you may never have heard of. It’s also a great challenge as a gardener to take something you’ve never tried before and make it at home in your landscape. Unique plants have many, many benefits to both the expert and novice gardener:

You can’t find them everywhere. Many unique varieties can't be found in the big garden centers, as they may require horticultural expertise at their earliest stages. Look to reliable mail-order sites that employ knowledgeable staff at their greenhouses. To find varieties that set your garden apart from your friends’ and neighbors', you'll need to look beyond the big box stores!

They are easy to grow. A common misconception for hard-to-find varieties is that they are tricky and high maintenance. This just isn’t true! While getting them started may require non-traditional techniques, these varieties are just as easy to grow as any other perennials or bulbs you’ve worked with. You’ll just need to pay close attention to the planting details.

Many are deer resistant. This is a big one! Many of the unique varieties we sell are deer and rabbit resistant. This makes them a great choice for planting outside a fence for a bold statement or anywhere you have pesky critters.

hellstrip gardening - wildflowers

Red Hot Poker stands out among classic Geranium, Hosta, and Catmint.

  1. Catmint Walkers Low, Nepeta faassenii

    'Walker's Low' Catmint is known for its easy going nature - it can thrive in a variety of soil and sunlight scenarios, though it does prefer things on the sunny, dry side. Beautiful ...

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    Walker's Low Nepeta Walker's Low Catmint Nepeta faassenii Walker's Low
    As low as $9.98 Sale $7.49
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    'Walker's Low' Catmint is known for its easy going nature - it can thrive in a variety of soil and sunlight scenarios, though it does prefer things on the sunny, dry side. Beautiful purple flower spikes appear in early summer and continue to bloom and release their sweet fragrance for up to 3 months. Very showy and very low maintenance, 'Walker's Low' is a great choice for planting in swaths, lining walkways, or adding to pollinator gardens. Deer resistant. (Nepeta faassenii)
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  2. Red Hot Poker Alcazar, Kniphofia

    'Alcazar' Red Hot Poker brings warm, fiery color to the garden with its vibrant flower spikes. Each flame-like bloom is formed with dangling red-orange buds that open from bottom to ...

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    Red Hot Poker Alcazar Alcazar Torch Lily, Poker Plant Kniphofia Alcazar
    $16.98 Sale $12.74
    Per Bag of 3
    'Alcazar' Red Hot Poker brings warm, fiery color to the garden with its vibrant flower spikes. Each flame-like bloom is formed with dangling red-orange buds that open from bottom to top, revealing faded yellow interiors. A favorite of hummingbirds and butterflies, this unusual plant is easy to grow, perfect for beginner gardeners. Requires full sun. (Kniphofia)
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  3. Agastache Tango, Hyssop, Hummingbird Mint

    A long-lasting and vibrant bloomer, 'Tango' Hyssop produces tubular, fiery orange flowers that attract butterflies, hummingbirds and bees to the garden. Blooming from early summer in...

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    Tango Hyssop Tango Hyssop, Hummingbird Mint Agastache aurantiaca Tango
    $9.98 Sale $4.99
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    A long-lasting and vibrant bloomer, 'Tango' Hyssop produces tubular, fiery orange flowers that attract butterflies, hummingbirds and bees to the garden. Blooming from early summer into fall, 'Tango' is short in stature and a great choice for containers and small space gardens. Fragrant, deer-resistant and water-wise, 'Tango' prefers a spot with plenty of sun. (Agastache aurantiaca)
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  4. Stachys monieri Hummelo, Hummelo Betony, Photo Courtesy of Walters Garden Inc.

    Award-winning Hummelo Betony brings a vigorous burst of spiky violet blooms to your late spring garden while providing a strong mounding groundcover during the rest of the growing se...

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    Hummelo Betony Hummelo Betony Stachys monieri ‘Hummelo’
    $11.98 Sale $8.99
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    Award-winning Hummelo Betony brings a vigorous burst of spiky violet blooms to your late spring garden while providing a strong mounding groundcover during the rest of the growing season. Masses of two-lipped flowers cluster on the top of strong stems and are a favorite for pollinators in a sunny garden. Deer resistant. (Stachys monieri Hummelo)
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Add A Focal Point With Unique Plants

Unique Plants - Crocosmia

This Crocosmia planted with classic Hydrangea elevates the garden to something unique and professional-looking.

Unique plants are an easy way to add a showy focal point to the garden, especially if you’re working with a small landscape. If your garden space is limited, plant unique varieties like spikey-bloomed Sea Holly, or low-growing Anemones to create a big, bold statement. Even if you choose just one unique variety for your small space garden and fill in the rest with classic favorites, that one focal point will go a long way in elevating your garden.

The same principle goes for larger gardens; if you’re looking to create a focal point in your garden, add a unique and conversation-worthy variety. For larger spaces, you may want to plant a grouping of 5 or more plants to add that “wow” factor and not let the unique variety get lost in the rest of your garden.

Create Symmetry And Cohesion With Unique Plants

Unique Plants - Anemones

Anemones are a low-growing bulb that can be planted both in the spring and fall. The colorful blooms are deer resistant and great for small space gardens.

Unique plants can also be used in existing garden beds to create symmetry and cohesion. This is an easy way to achieve a professionally-designed look in your garden beds. Choose one or more unique varieties and plant them in groupings (3-5), repeating the same throughout your garden beds. You can do this with almost any perennial variety, but unique plants instantly make your garden stand out.

When you use plants to add cohesion to the garden, you have several options.

  • You can plant them in groupings randomly throughout the garden. Or, you can choose to add them in the center and flanking both ends of the garden for a more symmetrical look. The choice is up to you and your garden style.
  • If you’re looking for a more formal look, you may want to use symmetry in your groupings.
  • If you prefer a wild or informal garden, simply placing the groupings throughout the garden will help to add the cohesion you're looking for.

Unique Plants For Woodland Areas

Unique Plants - shooting star

Shooting Star is a native perennial that thrives in shade to partial sun, offering up delicate white, lavender, or pink blooms in the spring months. The smaller size makes it perfect for a small space shade garden.

If you want to create a big statement in your shade garden, there are a variety of unique plants that thrive in wet, shady areas. These are a great alternative (or addition) to the classic Bleeding Hearts, Hostas, and Ferns that often fill in the shade garden. Many of these woodland plants are native and bloom very early in the season, extending the interest in your garden.

  • Jack in the Pulpit’s uniquely-shaped foliage and brilliant red berries make this a fantastic early spring beauty.
  • Black Cohosh is a native woodland that gets to be 8’ tall and boasts tall, white spiky blooms.
  • Shooting Star is a brilliant native perennial that offers produces unusual pointed blooms in the spring garden.
  • Foam Flower’s white, feathery blooms add texture and interest to the early spring garden. Get creative and add some of these hard-to-find varieties in your shade garden to make it the star of your landscape.

Experiment With Unique Plants

Unique Plants - sea holly

Sea Holly is a fantastic easy-to-grow perennial. The blooms are so intruiging!

Whether you’re gardening in a city or have a lot of land, have fun in your garden and experiment with unique varieties. You'll enjoy the big statement that these unique varieties add almost instantly. And you'll definitely enjoy the compliments and conversations that arise when visitors spot the hard-to-find varieties in your landscape.

  1. White Splendour Anemone Flowers

    'White Spendour' Anemone carpets woodland areas, rock gardens, and flower beds with a sea of adorable white, daisy-like blooms. The flowers, coupled with the finely textured foliage ...

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    White Splendour Anemone White Splendour Grecian Windflower Anemone blanda White Splendour
    $22.98 Sale $11.48
    Per Bag of 25
    'White Spendour' Anemone carpets woodland areas, rock gardens, and flower beds with a sea of adorable white, daisy-like blooms. The flowers, coupled with the finely textured foliage of this spring-blooming tuber, make a beautiful "skirt" for colorful tulips, daffodils, and even flowering shrubs. Plants are deer, rabbit, and rodent resistant. (Anemone blanda)
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  2. Pink Belladonna Lily or Naked Ladies, Amaryllis belladonna, Belladonna Lily or Naked Ladies

    A gorgeous flower with many identities: Belladonna Lily, Naked Ladies, or Belladonna Amaryllis, this plant produces green, leafy growth that emerges in spring and dies back by mid su...

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    Belladonna Lily or Naked Ladies Belladonna Lily, Naked Ladies Amaryllis belladonna
    $29.98 Sale $14.99
    Per Bag of 1
    A gorgeous flower with many identities: Belladonna Lily, Naked Ladies, or Belladonna Amaryllis, this plant produces green, leafy growth that emerges in spring and dies back by mid summer. In late summer, leafless stems produce elegant, pink flowers. Belladonna Lilies are hardy in zones 7 - 11 and are considered annuals in all other zones. (Amaryllis belladonna)
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  3. Four O'Clocks, Mirabilis jalapa, Four O'Clocks

    Four O'Clocks, sometimes called 'Marvel of Peru', are low-growing, bushy plants with flowers that bloom in several colors on the same plant - often on the same trailing stem. Four O'...

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    Four O'Clock Mix Four O'Clock Mix Mirabilis jalapa Mix
    $11.98 Sale $7.79
    Per Bag of 5
    Four O'Clocks, sometimes called 'Marvel of Peru', are low-growing, bushy plants with flowers that bloom in several colors on the same plant - often on the same trailing stem. Four O'Clocks tolerate average-to-poor soils beautifully, making them a favorite for sun and part-sun sites that haven't gotten much attention in the past. Blooms open every afternoon (around 4 o'clock) and have closed by the next morning. (Mirabilis jalapa)
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  4. Double White Freesia Flowers

    Few floral fragrances rival that of 'Double White' Freesia. This creamy-white, double-petaled Freesia has slender blades of foliage that also add a touch of texture to the garden. Gr...

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    Double White Freesia Double White Freesia Freesia Double White
    $13.98 Sale $7.99
    Per Bag of 25
    Few floral fragrances rival that of 'Double White' Freesia. This creamy-white, double-petaled Freesia has slender blades of foliage that also add a touch of texture to the garden. Grown as an annual in the north, Freesias make excellent container plants and do well in full to partial sun. (Freesia)
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